U.S. says North Korean malware lurking in computer networks

AFP-JIJI

U.S. authorities said Tuesday that malware developed in North Korea is still lurking in many computer networks, giving hackers back-door access to government, financial, automotive and media organizations.

An alert issued by the Department of Homeland Security warned of surreptitious activity by the so-called Hidden Cobra hacker group.

U.S. officials earlier this year blamed the group for cyberattacks dating back to 2009, saying it was linked to the Pyongyang government.

In Tuesday’s warning, the DHS Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) said the hackers could still maintain a presence on victims’ networks with the aim of “further network exploitation.”

The report said some networks could be infected with the Volgmer back-door Trojan or a remote administration tool known as Fallchill, which can give hackers complete control of a system. FBI investigators suspect Fallchill has been used since 2016 and Volgmer since 2013.

Private security analysts refer to Hidden Cobra as the Lazarus group of hackers, who are linked to North Korea and likely were behind a series of multimillion-dollar cyberthefts from banks around the world.

Some analysts say the Lazarus group may also have been behind the WannaCry ransomware outbreak earlier this year.

Hackers in the group have been active since 2009 and “have leveraged their capabilities to target and compromise a range of victims,” according to a DHS report in June. “Some intrusions have resulted in the exfiltration of data, while others have been disruptive in nature.”

DHS and FBI officials say the group “will continue to use cyberoperations to advance their government’s military and strategic objectives,” according to the DHS report.

North Korea has denied orchestrating any cyberattacks.

The latest report comes amid rising tensions with the United States over the communist regime’s nuclear testing program.